Friday, October 08, 2010

2 Injured When Man Opens Fire at SoCal School (NRA racks up another one!)

CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) — A gunman opened fire on a crowded school playground Friday, grazing two young children with bullets before construction workers tackled him, authorities said.
The suspect parked his car around noon, jumped a fence and opened fire as he walked across campus in the north San Diego suburb, said Carlsbad police Lt. Kelly Cain. The students, ages 6 and 7, were not seriously injured.
The suspect, a man in his 40s or 50s whose name was not released, was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, Cain said. He is believed to have acted alone.
"He is possibly a transient who lives in the area," Cain said. "He is not cooperating with the investigation. He probably has some mental health issues."
Scott Chandler was repairing a Jet Ski in his driveway when he heard two loud bangs and saw children running and screaming. He ran downhill in his flip-flops and saw several men struggling on the side of the road.
As he approached the crowd, he saw bullets fall out of the suspect's pocket.
"I just started yelling him, 'Why are you shooting kids?'" Chandler said. "His face was in the dirt, his teeth were in the dirt, and he just grunted."
Construction worker Carlos Partida told KGTV-TV that he ran to his truck after he saw the suspect leave the playground.
"I hit him with my truck," he said.
Terry Lynn told KNSD-TV he looked out his window to see a man park his vehicle, jump a fence and fire a .357 Magnum revolver toward a crowd of children.
"He was saying something about the president, he was ranting," Lynn said.
Lynn said he screamed, "No! No!" and rushed to the scene. By the time he arrived, construction workers had tackled the suspect. He helped restrain the man until police arrived.
"It was very chaotic," he told the television station.
Witnesses said the man appeared to be firing randomly and was holding something that looked like a gas tank. Cain said a propane tank was found near his car.
"I heard a gunshot and I ran to Room 23," said Kenny Speck, 6, who heard classmates crying. "Some kids went over the fence."
Speck's parents said it could have been so much worse.
"Who knows what could have happened?" said Tamera Wleklinski, his mother. "I am so grateful to the construction workers. They deserve lunch and free donuts for the rest of the year."
Norma Cevallas, who picked up her kindergarten son an hour earlier, was at home when she heard four shots.
"We ran into a room and stayed there," she said. "We didn't want to come out."
The school was placed on lockdown while parents waited for their children in a nearby park.
"It was total panic not knowing what was going on and if our children were OK," Robert Speck, 43, said after reuniting with his son.

Top Nevada GOP lawmaker endorses Reid

RENO, Nev. -- Veteran state Sen. Bill Raggio, one of Nevada's most influential Republicans over the last four decades, says he's reluctantly endorsing Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid's re-election campaign.

Raggio issued a statement Thursday sharply criticizing GOP candidate Sharron Angle, branding her as a "totally ineffective" four-term state lawmaker.

Raggio also cited what he called Angle's inability and unwillingness to work with others even within her own party, and her extreme positions on Social Security and other issues.

Raggio also criticized Angle for badmouthing GOP leaders in a recent secretly taped conversation.
The Angle campaign did not immediately respond to Raggio's comments.

Raggio defeated Angle two years ago in a bitter GOP primary.

Media Matters: Damage control week at FOX NEWS(?) Channel

It's been a bumpy week for America's premier Republican cable news channel. Internal strife on various fronts required constant attention, but so did the assorted scandals that pricked up this week involving some of Fox News' very favorite Republican candidates, requiring the network to play some strenuous defense.

And, of course, whenever Fox News is in trouble, you can pretty well guarantee that Glenn Beck will be at the center of it. Beck was the subject of a New York Times Magazine profile last week which reported that his peculiar on-air behavior and relentless hucksterism have started to rankle his slightly less disreputable colleagues. Foremost among them is Fox News president Roger Ailes, who has apparently grown weary of the fact that Beck uses Fox's airwaves to promote his own, non-Fox ventures and line his own pockets. (You can understand why Ailes would be upset -- after all, Beck has reportedly cost the network millions of dollars in ad revenue.)

Meanwhile, Fox News' "journalists" have apparently decided to make Beck the scapegoat for the network's steadily eroding credibility. The Times reported that several of them "complained that Beck's antics are embarrassing Fox, that his inflammatory rhetoric makes it difficult for the network to present itself as a legitimate news outlet" -- a humorous complaint, given that Fox News' "journalists" are just as capable of legitimacy-killing antics.

But everyone knows that Beck was and is a troublemaker. Less well-known was Fox News' apparently longstanding problem with gender discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit against the network for penalizing reporter Catherine Herridge because she once complained about gender and age discrimination at the network. This followed the 2006 lawsuit against a Fox VP who "used obscene terms to describe women and their body parts," and Bill O'Reilly's reported games of falafel phone tag. Regarding the Herridge affair, a Fox spokesperson responded in the network's typically measured fashion by blaming the whole thing on President Obama.

Then there's Karl Rove, whose presence at Fox News has never really screamed "ethical." He's one of the raft of former Bush officials who landed at Fox News as their administration slowly crumbled and limped out of office, and the network really wanted us to believe that he -- the most infamous Republican political operative since Lee Atwater -- was an independent election analyst. But then Rove formed American Crossroads, a sort of shadow RNC that works doggedly to elect Republicans and is funded almost exclusively by a handful of Texas billionaires, and any pretense of ethics or good journalistic practice was washed away.

And -- wouldn't you know it? -- Democratic politicians and independent campaign finance groups are calling for the IRS to audit American Crossroads, suspecting that the non-profit group might be misusing their tax-exempt status. In response to this development, Fox News called on Dana Perino, Rove's one-time Bush administration colleague and current Fox News colleague, to defend her buddy Karl and his pet political project, labeling the calls for investigation "politically motivated" and "political interference that is inappropriate, possibly unlawful."

Tending to your own house is difficult enough, but cleaning up your friends' messes at the same time is a real feat, and Fox gave it their best shot in a week full of Republican candidates struggling with controversy. First up was California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who was alleged to have knowingly employed an undocumented immigrant. Fox has both an ideological and financial stake in Whitman -- remember, News Corp. gave $1 million to the Republican Governors' Association -- so they went to bat for their candidate, reporting that she is the "victim of a last-minute smear campaign" and "dirty tricks." Fox News' Megyn Kelly dismissed the controversy by saying "there is no case here," and Sean Hannity went so far as to praise Whitman for her "complete and due diligence."

No sooner had they finished attempting to rehab Whitman's image than another GOPer was embroiled in something of a brouhaha, this time New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, who threatened New York Post reporter Frederic Dicker during a heated confrontation. This was a real doozy, and not just because Fox rushed to Paladino's defense. To boost Paladino, they had to lob some intramural attacks at Dicker -- the Post is a fellow Murdoch-owned media outlet. Gretchen Carlson of Fox & Friends said that "it almost seemed like" Dicker "was working for" Paladino's opponent, Andrew Cuomo. David Asman wondered aloud if "Americans are going to be cheering the politicians taking on the journalist."

Meanwhile, Paladino sat down for interviews with three separate Fox News hosts to defend himself and try to defuse the issue. Hannity, one of the lucky interviewers, said of Paladino: "I love his confrontational style. He's refreshingly honest."
All this raises some interesting questions. Is there anything a Republican candidate can do that will cause Fox News to abandon them? Is there anything that Fox News can do that will impel the network to apologize or -- at the very least -- not lash out wildly at critics? Are there any standards at all? Any lines that can't be crossed?
The answer seems more and more to be "no," and that's as depressing as it is remarkable.
Shine on you crazy D'Souza
There's no real reason anyone should be talking about Dinesh D'Souza's latest book, The Roots of Obama's Rage. All things being equal, the book shouldn't even exist; one would like to think that no publisher worth their salt would consider for a moment publishing such a virulently nativist collection of lies.

But, of course, all things aren't equal. In fact, things have become pretty absurd, and as a consequence D'Souza's book is a hot topic of conversation. The reason that this ridiculous person was able to publish such a ridiculous book is that there's an entire ridiculous publishing house committed to cranking out right-wing garbage of this stripe. The reason that ridiculous book sells is because there's an entire ridiculous right-wing infrastructure of book clubs and magazines that buy copies in bulk and resell them at drastically reduced rates. The ridiculous author of this ridiculous book is able to communicate with broad swaths of America because there's an entire ridiculous cable network that will put him on TV without so much as a hint of criticism.
It's tempting to look at this and brush it off. After all, it's just another example of the right-wing subculture telling each other what they want to hear and reveling in epistemic closure's comforting, suffocating embrace.

But then D'Souza popped up in The Washington Post.

The Post cleared space on their op-ed page for a guy who argues, in all seriousness, that the first black president of the United States is on a quest to drain the country's economic and military power in order to fulfill the ambitions of the "anti-colonial" father he met only once as a young child. This was after Forbes had to publish corrections to the article D'Souza wrote for them and dispatch a post-publication fact-checker.

So why did they run it? Here's editorial page editor Fred Hiatt defending the move: "D'Souza's theory has sparked a great deal of commentary, from potential presidential candidates as well as from commentators on our own pages." The "potential presidential candidate" is Newt Gingrich, who loved D'Souza's theory; and the Post commentators are Eugene Robinson, Richard Cohen, and Jonathan Capehart, all of whom called Gingrich a lunatic for promoting D'Souza. Hiatt's argument is essentially: "People are talking about it -- who cares if it's right?"
It's this sort of passive attitude towards factual accuracy that allows fringe hacks like D'Souza to break into the mainstream. The Post has an obligation to keep their readers informed, not to reprint the intellectually fraudulent trash Newt Gingrich finds interesting.

Health Care Costs, Lost Productivity Ring in at $73 Billion a Year

Obesity in the Workplace Costs the U.S. Billions

Obese Americans have increased the cost of health care, according to recent studies, but the doctor's office isn't the only place where obesity ups expenses: The workplace is another. Research released Friday by Duke University found that the cost to employers of obesity among full-time employees was $73.1 billion a year.

Using survey data from the 2006 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and the 2008 U.S. National Health and Wellness Survey, the Duke researchers estimated the extent to which obesity-related health problems affected absenteeism, work productivity and medical costs.

While previous estimates looked mainly at the direct health care costs of obesity, lead researcher Eric Finkelstein, deputy director for health services and systems research at Duke-National University of Singapore, and his colleagues found that "presenteeism," or the lost productivity incurred when employees try to work despite health problems, cost employers a whopping $12.1 billion per year, nearly twice as much as their medical costs.

"Much work has already shown the high costs of obesity in medical expenditures and absenteeism, but our findings are the first to measure the incremental costs of presenteeism for obese individuals separately by body mass index and gender among full time employees," Finkelstein said in a press release.
Presenteeism was also the biggest cost among employees of healthy weight, but researchers found that obese workers accounted for a disproportionately larger share of overall presenteeism, absenteeism and medical expenses.
What's more, severely obese individuals with a body mass index greater than 35 accounted for 61 percent of all obese employee costs, though they represent only 37 percent of the overall obese population.
Among those with a BMI higher than 40, which is roughly 100 pounds overweight, these costs worked out to $16,900 per capita for women and $15,500 for men in this weight class.
This study is "a compelling reaffirmation of what Dr. Finkelstein and others have told us before: If we don't deal with obesity effectively, there is probably little hope for us dealing with our economy effectively," said Dr. David Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine.
And while these numbers are rough estimates of costs, "capturing data in any way we can is better than ignoring," he said. "While probably not perfectly accurate, this report certainly depicts a very accurate picture overall."

Cost of Obesity for Society, and for the Obese

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the yearly medical costs of obesity are estimated at $147 billion, a figure that has ballooned of late, growing by more than 80 percent over a five-year period, recent studies found.

Over time, the trend has been similar, experts note: The greater the obesity in an individual, the higher the medical costs on average, and now with Duke's new research, this trend appears to extend to workplace costs as well.
"As a society, the message is clear. As important as education is to our future, so is our health. If we are not a nation of educated people, we will not lead the world in emerging high-tech areas. If our children are not fit and healthy, they will not be able to perform at their optimum level," said Dr. Mitchell Roslin, a bariatric surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.
" No child left behind has to mean more than just reading and arithmetic, and cannot separate health, fitness and emotional maturation," he said.

While encouraging employees to maintain a healthy weight should be the ultimate goal, diet experts note that any change in the right direction is likely to improve health outcomes for employees and hence productivity, and lower medical costs for employers.
"Some weight loss is likely to be associated with some health improvement; more & with more health improvement. It's a continuous scale of weight and health and dollars," Katz said.
The researchers write that these quantifications should spur increased awareness of economic drawbacks of an overweight and ailing America, but Roslin noted that these types of statistics could also contribute to discrimination against obese employees.

"One sad result is that the study provides ammunition for the discrimination that people with severe obesity deal with," he said. "Yale once published a study that showed that people would rather hire a convicted felon, than a person with severe obesity. Now, let us add the present study and think about the impact it could have on hiring practices. If you add science to discrimination, it will be very difficult for people with morbid obesity to find a job."

Billions in lost productivity should be a wake-up call to employers to help their employees get fit and stay in good health, Roslin said, not a justification for ridding the workplace of obese workers.

A New Study Looks at the 4 Ways Americans View God

A Look at the 4 Ways Americans View God

When children are asked to draw God, they come up with a variety of images -- a man on a throne, a smiley face, a shining sun or maybe a cross-legged Buddha type.
It turns out their parents visualize the same things too.
According to a new book called "America's Four Gods" by Paul Froese and Christopher Bader, the way Americans view of God falls into four categories.
Froese and Bader, both professors at Baylor University, used polling data from a 2008 survey to break down how Americans believe in God.
The survey showed that about 28 percent of Americans believe in an "authoritative God.
"Someone who has an authoritative God believes in a God that is very judgmental and very engaged in the world at the same time," said Bader, adding that they also tend to be evangelical and male.
For 22 percent of Americans, mostly evangelical women, they characterize the almighty as a "benevolent God" who is thoroughly involved in their lives but is loving, not stern.
"It's definitely a personal relationship, like a friendship, like a companionship," said Alesia Upton, when asked by ABC News in Chicago. "Just in case somebody's not there for you, he's always there."

Others believe in a "critical God" who is removed from daily events but will render judgment in the afterlife.
"We find a strong tendency for African-Americans, for people who are at lower levels of income and education to believe in the 'critical God,'" said Bader.

The fourth and final way that those surveyed view God is a "distant God" who set the universe in motion, but then disengaged.
"These tend to be higher educated, more 'spiritual' people," said Froese.

Froese and Bader argued that such questions are not merely academic. They claimed that the way a person views God profoundly impacts one's morals, behavior and politics.
For example, President George W. Bush's talk of evil is more likely to resonate in believers in an engaged, judgmental God.
"My administration has a job to do and we're going to do it.," Bush said in an interview with CNN shortly after Sept. 11. "We will rid the world of the evildoers"
They also are more likely to view natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina as God's punishment.
Believers in a distant God are apt to be less suspicious of science and more likely to agree with Benjamin Franklin's assertion that a "supremely perfect" God doesn't care one bit "for such an inconsiderable nothing as man."
"A person's conception of God is central to how they perceive their world and behave in it," said Froese.

These questions about how we conceive of God unlock our most basic values and, often, tap into our childlike imagination about who or what created the universe.